Hey guys it’s Maddie and today we are super excited to show you guys the next episode of our Trucking Culture series, which covers all kinds of music, movies, and other media that have made a major impact on the trucking industry. In today’s episode #7, we will be bouncing back in time to talk about a tv show that changed trucking culture forever – the beloved B.J. and the Bear.
But before we begin, we sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed our Trucking Culture series so far, and we’d like to thank you all so much for making it so successful. Although in the past we have put the series behind our Patreon wall and eventually on our Jack’s Chrome Shop YouTube channel – for future episodes of the series such as this one, we will be transferring Trucking Culture to our sister channel, Chrome and Steel Radio YouTube, where we will be bringing you 2 times the amount of Trucking Culture with not just 1, but 2 episodes each month. If you wanna continue to watch even more episodes of Trucking Culture, be sure to like this video and subscribe to the Chrome and Steel Radio YouTube channel using the link in the description box below. Thanks for watching and let’s get started!
Created at the peak of the trucking/CB radio craze – B.J. and the Bear first broke through the big screen after airing their original pilot episode on NBC on October 4th, 1978 – followed by the start of their 1st full season on February 10th, 1979. Heavily influenced by fan-favorite freight-haulin’ films like White Line Fever, Smokey and the Bandit, Convoy and Every Which Way But Loose – B.J. and the Bear brought a twist to trucking with a pet primate riding shotgun, a dreamy Vietnam veteran driving, and whatever beautiful young woman they brought forth from their travels.
Based on a Georgia man by the name of B.J. McCay – who before becoming a professional truck driver, was supposedly taken as a prisoner of war while serving as a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army during Vietnam – this series starts with nothing more than a handsome young trucker, his trusty pet chimp, Bear, and a beautiful big red and white Kenworth K-100 Aerodyne cabover rig. Of course, as B.J. and his buddy, Bear, continue to trek their way across the country, they are confronted with a slew of stops along the way, including countless encounters with corrupt cops and a few lovely young ladies throughout their travels.
Primarily written and produced by Glen A. Larson, alongside Michael Sloan and Robert McCullough, as well as directors Christian I. Nyby II and Bruce Bilson; the all-American comedy television series starred Greg Evigan as main character, Billie Joe “B.J.” McCay, and his chimpanzee companion, Bear, (better known off-scene as Moe the Chimpanzee), who was named after the beloved Paul William “Bear” Bryant, famed head football coach for the University of Alabama from 1958 to 1982. In fact, Bear can often times be seen in the show wearing a houndstooth ball cap inspired by Bryant’s classic choice of headwear.
Serving as a modest mid-season replacement for NBC during one of the network’s darkest eras, the show’s self-entitled theme song, was also written by Glen and performed by Greg – who only 1 month after graduating high school in 1971 – began his career in showbiz by appearing in the Broadway show “Jesus Christ Superstar,” followed by a lead role as Danny Zuko in Broadway’s version of Grease, before later making his feature film debut in the 1976 movie “Scorchy,” and ultimately being cast as the lead role in B.J. and the Bear in 1978.
Alongside the eye-catching Mr. Greg Evigan was fellow actor Claude Akins, who frequently played the part of Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo during the show’s 1st season, after having previously starred as one of the main characters, “Sonny Pruitt,” in the trucking television series “Movin’ On.” Eventually, due to B.J.’s skyrocketing success, Sheriff Lobo’s character spun off into its own show called “The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo” in 1979.
In addition to the almighty Claude Akins, several other prominent people also played some smaller parts throughout the show including performances by Slim Pickens as Sgt. Beauregard Wiley, Murray Hamilton as Captain Rutherford T. Grant, Conchata Ferrell as Wilhelmina “The Fox” Johnson, Janet Julian as Tommy, Eric Server as Lieutenant Jim Steiger, Linda McCullough as Callie, and Judy Landers as “Stacks.” Of course we can’t forget Moe the Chimpanzee, better known by his stage-name from the show “Bear,” who after some difficulties following the filming of B.J. and the Bear, was subsequently moved 30 miles east of Bakersfield to the Animal Haven Ranch where he is housed with a handful of other retired chimp actors.
Unfortunately, the success of the show was pretty short-lived, and on May 9th, 1981, the very last episode #47 of B.J. and the Bear entitled, “The Two Million Dollar Hustle” aired on NBC and officially marked the end of the entire series as a whole. Sadly, ratings for the show had run dry during its later seasons, which left no choice for NBC but to cancel B.J. completely – despite its desperate attempts to remain relevant, including a couple crossover episodes with sister show, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo; as well as introducing “B.J. and the Seven Lady Truckers” in an effort to expand the television series into new trucking territory.
Despite its fairly short stint as a late-70s TV series, B.J. and the Bear certainly packed a powerful punch and made a major impact on the trucking industry that would last to this day. In fact, B.J.’s classic 1980 Kenworth K-100 cabover can still be seen today at countless truck shows around the country. Owned and operated by father-son duo Craig and Paul Sagehorn of Sparta, Wisconsin, who purchased the truck back in 2007 – the cabover can also sometimes still be seen out on the road running mostly local loads of about a hundred miles or less. Additionally, on very rare occasion you can even catch Mr. Greg Evigan himself teaming up with the Sagehorn’s and their iconic K-100 at several events within the truck show circuit.
In addition to the only remaining instantly-recognizable rig, many others have been made to model the iconic Kenworth Aerodyne Cabover. Although, it has also been said that perhaps one more identical original K-100 could possibly still exist, as 2 trucks were discovered on the official bill of material document, despite no one knowing or hearing of the whereabouts of the twin truck. Beyond the beloved big rig model that made the show such a success, actors like Evigan continued on after B.J. and the Bear was over, with other shows including the 1987-1990 television series “My Two Dads,” as well as the longest-running soap opera “General Hospital” as recently as 2018, and many more.
Unfortunately, as we mentioned above, the show itself did not last too terribly long – however, the lasting impact it made on the industry is one that will forever forge on in the hearts of many truckers today, both young and old; as well as in the countless copy-cat red and white cabover rigs roaming the roads all around the world. So the next time you say, “Hey there, where ya goin’,” and you’re “not exactly knowin’,” just remember, “who says you have to call just one place home?”
Thank you so much for watching our all-new Trucking Culture series featuring Bill Weaver. Before you leave, make sure you like the video, check out the other videos on our channel, and subscribe as we continue to grow our Chrome and Steel Radio YouTube account. Our goal is to hit 200 by the end of the month… so thank you all so much for your continued support for our channel and our sister channel Jack’s Chrome!
If you have any questions, comments, concerns or anything else you’d like to talk to us about; please be sure to tune into our other shows including A Daily Dose of Hope with your favorite yogi, Ms. Hope Zvara, Bullhaulin’ BS with crazy cowhaulers Jerry Novak and his son Tyler, The Chrome Corner with host Dave Coleman, and last but certainly not least… the Out on the Road show with our very own, Bill Weaver. If you’d like to stay up to date with the new projects we have coming, please follow us at @chromeandsteelradio on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Be sure to stop by the site and search through our selection of Chrome and Steel Radio shirts available in a wide range of sizes spanning from small to 5XL! Thanks for watching, we will see you next time on Chrome and Steel.